Holy Cross makes long awaited return to state final
Former UConn standout and Connecticut Sun Forward Morgan Tuck spoke at Thursday's CIAC girls basketball press conference.
It's been 10 years but the Holy Cross girls basketball team is back in the state finals.
A trip a decade in the making is finally here and the top-seeded Crusaders will take on No. 2 Daniel Hand in the Class L title game at Mohegan Sun on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Holy Cross last appeared in a title game in 2007 when they won the Class M title over Career Magnet. The Crusaders got here by knocking off the state's premiere program, Capital Prep, 56-55 in the semifinals. Capital Prep had not lost to an in-state opponent since losing the 2012 Class S title game to Coginchaug, but Holy Cross gutted out a comeback win thanks in large part to a basket by Aiyana Ward with 6.5 seconds to play.
Holy Cross has been at the top of the Class L rankings all season. Its lone loss came to Mercy back in December. The Crusaders reeled off 17 consecutive wins to close out the regular season and beat Crosby, Sheehan and Guilford to set up the meeting with Capital Prep.
"This year's team really bonded and becamse close," said Holy Cross senior Isabel Plant. "After losing in the semifinals last season everyone came back motivated."
The Tigers are playing in a state final for just the second time with the program's only other appearance coming in 1999 when the Tigers won the Class L title. Interestingly, Daniel Hand was the No. 15 seed and beat second seeded Holy Cross in the second round.
Hand earned a spot in the final with a 73-40 victory over Pomperaug in the semifinals. The Tigers were led by Gabby Martin, who scored 25 points, including the 1,000th of her career, in a 73-40 victory.
The Tigers and Crusaders have a couple of common opponents. Hand beat Mercy twice in the regular season before losing the third meeting of the year in the SCC Tournament title game. Both teams also played and beat Lauralton.
It was the victories over Mercy that got Hand thinking title.
"It's really cool to be here at this stage with my team. We worked hard and wanted to make the most of this season, make a championship a reality," Martin said. "When we beat Mercy we started to feel like this could be our year and from there we worked hard and had good team chemistry."